By Matters India Reporter
Kannur, September 5, 2019: Hundreds of men and women belong to various Catholic religious congregations have come to the streets of Kannur, a major city in Kerala, to protest what they said were biased media reports that tarnish their image.
“Do not belittle the life we have accepted with joy and pride. Religious life is not a matter of pain and distress,” the protesters said at the September 4 rally held outside the local office of the Mathrubhumi (motherland), a Malayalam newspaper.
Most speakers were heads of several religious congregations for women.
Sister Emestina, superior general of the Dina Sevana Sabha (DSS, Servants of the Poor), deplored attempts by certain section of the media to use isolated incidents as an excuse to despise Catholic asceticism and portray priests and nuns in a derogatory manner.
“We serve society with a smiling face forgetting our pain and sorrows. The face of Catholic religious life is contentment,” she asserted.
The DSS leader said Catholic religious men and women serve society with courage whatever the difficulties. “Our religious life is based on our love for God and it will not be affected however much some try to belittle it,” she added.
Sister Mary Noble of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation termed media reports as deliberate attacks on Catholic religious life and urged their detractors not to force priests and nuns to come to the streets again.
“We have organized this protest as a last resort as we have no other option left. We feel pity for those attacking us. They should undertake an unbiased study of what is happening around them to know how we live and what we do,” Sister Noble said.
She too said that the Catholic religious serve humanity with joy and responsibility and the media should refrain from spreading lies. “Like Mother Teresa we are willing to serve people in all difficult circumstances,” she added.
Sister Noble’s congregation came under much criticism recently for dismissing a 54-year-old member – Sister Lucy Kalappura – for allegedly violating vows of poverty and obedience.
The Clarist congregation has also initiated disciplinary action against another nun – Sister Lissy Vadakkel – for refusing to accept her transfer order.
However, the two nuns alleged that the congregation acted against them for supporting five members of the Missionaries of Jesus, another congregation, who demand justice for their former superior general who has accused a bishop of raping her.
The gathering in Kannur began the protest by reciting the rosary with participants holding lighted candles. They also covered their eyes with the piece of a black cloth.
Officials of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Tellicherry and the Latin Diocese of Kannur also addressed the gathering.
Earlier in the day, the major superiors of the religious congregations in Kerala met in Kochi, some 275 km south of Kannur, to deplore media’s attempts to idealize the disobedience of some religious.
“Anti-Christian forces are deliberately spreading calumnies to defame Christian asceticism in society,” said a press release from the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council. It is not proper for the media to spread lies under the pretext of protecting the truth, said September 4 press release signed by Father Varghese Vallikkat, the council’s official spokesperson.
The statement accuses the media of violating basic journalism ethics for presenting unverified allegations as facts.
Although the discussion on the need for renewal of religious life takes place in the backdrop of an ongoing renaissance in Kerala, they are in fact being done to communally polarize the community, the major superiors allege.
It is quite deplorable that the mainstream media have adopted a style of action that wounds the self-respect and womanhood of Catholic religious women under the pretext of renewing Christian religious life, they bemoan.
The meeting underscored the need to convince the faithful about the rationale and logic behind the necessary disciplinary actions taken by religious congregations. The major superiors have decided to organize discussion forums and meetings to check the machinations and propaganda by vested interests.
The meeting decided to apprise the management of the Mathrubhumi about the anguish of Catholic religious protest over an article published in its weekend edition.
The major superiors warn that the current debate that compares asceticism in Christianity and the baseless media discussions with ulterior motives that attack religions and religious institutions would only harm religious tolerance in society.